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Another Management World Americas in beautiful Orlando has come and gone, but even with the distraction of sunny Florida weather all week, the more than 1,200 attendees at this year's event had their fill of interesting discussions, insightful conference sessions and intensive debates and networking opportunities.
With attendance back to pre-recession levels, it's clear the industry is optimistic and serious about doing whatever it can to increase revenue opportunities, deliver a top-notch customer experience and reassert its role in the ever-changing value chain.
Martin Creaner, President of TM Forum, was struck by the many interesting themes that permeated the conference this week, from cloud services, smart grid and data analytics to a real, genuine focus on the customer and their overall experience. "Last year here in Orlando, we had a major launch of our involvement in the cloud space, and this year the cloud sessions have been standing room only," he says. "It's not only due to a growing importance of cloud services, but also the fact that service providers get the concept of cloud as an important part of reducing costs and as an enabler of this transformation to a new business model."
He says this progression shows the growing importance of the subject and the industry's move closer to practical solutions.
Data analytics has been a hot topic in communications for much of 2010, but here in Orlando the buzz surrounding the subject was almost palpable. "Almost everyone was talking about it as a way to improve the customer experience, for better targeting of content and services to customers and to enable new business models like mobile advertising," Creaner says. "Every conversation I've had this week with a service provider has eventually gotten around to the topic of analytics, and I think it has to do with the awareness on the part of the provider of the huge volume of customer data they possess and the capability they already have to mine that information." He adds that they are looking for guidance on what bits and pieces they need to pull out and what patterns they need to look for.
Smart grid, which really got onto the radar of the communications industry during Management World 2010 in Nice this past May, has become a big topic of interest, according to Creaner. "This space has the twin characteristics of being an area where a lot of money is being spent and that requires a core competency that TM Forum members have in abundance," he says. "This includes management of complex networks as well as dynamic rating, charging and billing."
TM Forum Chairman and CEO, Keith Willetts, agrees, adding that smart grid is a much broader topic and strategy about creating a dynamic energy infrastructure within a given country. "The grid is much more diversified and much more like a communications network with a lot of intelligence flying around," he says. "When there's real-time measurement of energy consumption, dynamic load balancing and pricing and smarter connectivity to the home, a lot of the tools and techniques you need are remarkably like what you need for a communications network."
Willetts adds that the power companies are asking where they can get this technology from, and by bringing them on the same page as communications service providers, they can benefit from Frameworx and other best practices and standards being used in communications today. "It's a parallel universe that's bigger than the telecom industry, and they are moving from a highly static, manual approach to a more dynamic, automated one, so there's more than a reasonable assumption of a good fit with what we and our members have pioneered in telecom," he says.
Other areas of interest this week, according to Creaner, included monetization of bandwidth and how service providers don't get taken advantage of with 'all-you-can-eat' data and by content providers getting free rides over their infrastructure, as well as a better understanding and focus on the customer. "It's a challenge that's been placed in front of the industry; if we're not cognizant of what the next generation of users will use communications for, and if we're not creating compelling services for customers, others will step in and do that," he says.
There are still some areas where question marks remain on how they will be approached, but going against the trend of tradeshows in North America, Willetts points out that Management World Americas has been able to grow in terms of an overall event, in terms of the seniority of attendees and in terms of the number of service providers in attendance. "This is the place where like-minded individuals are coming together," he says. "It's not about kicking the tires; it's about people networking all week, communicating and sharing ideas and best practices. We're really witnessing the blossoming of the whole community we've been promoting."
And doubtless these discussions will continue at Management World 2011 in Dublin.